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Developmental Milestones, Screening & Services

Families love to celebrate their little learners.


Every child — including yours — grows, learns and develops in a unique way. When a child’s development doesn’t follow the typical path, families have many resources available to get support — and get it early, which is the best time.

Every child has a unique path.

Developmental milestones are the typical skills that children develop in playing, learning, speaking, behaving and moving at specific ages. These milestones have windows of development that most children follow.

Developmental Milestones

These developmental milestones lists come from the Center for Disease Control’s “Learn the signs. Act early.” campaign.

  • Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive

    Every family looks forward to seeing a child’s first smile, first step, and first words. Regular screenings help raise awareness of a child’s development, making it easier to celebrate milestones and identify potential development concerns as early as possible. With early and regular screenings, you can make sure that your children get the support they need to succeed in school and thrive alongside their peers.

    To advance this mission, Indiana has joined with many other states across the nation in the Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive initiative. Learn more on their website.

    To check in with your child’s growth, you can explore the milestones for birth through five by clicking on each tab. Track that progress using a developmental screening passport, created by Birth to Five: Watch me Thrive.

  • 2 Months

    Social and Emotional

    • Begins to smile at people
    • Can briefly calm herself (may bring hands to mouth and suck on hand)
    • Tries to look at parent


    • Coos, makes gurgling sounds
    • Turns head toward sounds

    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

    • Pays attention to faces
    • Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance
    • Begins to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change

    Movement/Physical Development

    • Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy
    • Makes smoother movements with arms and legs
    Learn All the Ways your Baby is Learning to express themselves and explore
  • 4 Months
    Social and Emotional
    • Smiles spontaneously, especially at people
    • Likes to play with people and might cry when playing stops
    • Copies some movements and facial expressions, like smiling or frowning
    • Begins to babble
    • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears
    • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired
    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Lets you know if he is happy or sad
    • Responds to affection
    • Reaches for toy with one hand
    • Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it
    • Follows moving things with eyes from side to side
    • Watches faces closely
    • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance
    Movement/Physical Development
    • Holds head steady, unsupported
    • Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface
    • May be able to roll over from tummy to back
    • Can hold a toy and shake it and swing at dangling toys
    • Brings hands to mouth
    • When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows
    Learn All the Ways your Baby is Learning to express themselves and explore
  • 6 Months
    What most babies do by 6 months:
    Social and Emotional
    • Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger
    • Likes to play with others, especially parents
    • Responds to other people’s emotions and often seems happy
    • Likes to look at self in a mirror
    • Responds to sounds by making sounds
    • Strings vowels together when babbling (“ah,” “eh,” “oh”) and likes taking turns with parent while making sounds
    • Responds to own name
    • Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure
    • Begins to say consonant sounds (jabbering with “m,” “b”)
    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Looks around at things nearby
    • Brings things to mouth
    • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach
    • Begins to pass things from one hand to the other
    Movement/Physical Development
    • Rolls over in both directions (front to back, back to front)
    • Begins to sit without support
    • When standing, supports weight on legs and might bounce
    • Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward
    Learn All the Ways your Baby is Learning to express themselves and explore
  • 9 Months
    What most babies do by 9 months:
    Social and Emotional
    • May be afraid of strangers
    • May be clingy with familiar adults
    • Has favorite toys
    • Understands “no”
    • Makes a lot of different sounds like “mamamama” and “bababababa”
    • Copies sounds and gestures of others
    • Uses fingers to point at things
    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Watches the path of something as it falls
    • Looks for things she sees you hide
    • Plays peek-a-boo
    • Puts things in his mouth
    • Moves things smoothly from one hand to the other
    • Picks up things like cereal o’s between thumb and index finger
    Movement/Physical Development
    • Stands, holding on
    • Can get into sitting position
    • Sits without support
    • Pulls to stand
    • Crawls
    Learn All the Ways your Baby is Learning to express themselves and explore
  • 12 Months
    What most children do by 12 months:
    Social and Emotional
    • Is shy or nervous with strangers
    • Cries when mom or dad leaves
    • Has favorite things and people
    • Shows fear in some situations
    • Hands you a book when he wants to hear a story
    • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
    • Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing
    • Plays games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”
    • Responds to simple spoken requests
    • Uses simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye”
    • Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds more like speech)
    • Says “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!”
    • Tries to say words you say
    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing
    • Finds hidden things easily
    • Looks at the right picture or thing when it’s named
    • Copies gestures
    • Starts to use things correctly; for example, drinks from a cup, brushes hair
    • Bangs two things together
    • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container
    • Lets things go without help
    • Pokes with index (pointer) finger
    • Follows simple directions like “pick up the toy”
    Movement/Physical Development
    • Gets to a sitting position without help
    • Pulls up to stand, walks holding on to furniture (“cruising”)
    • May take a few steps without holding on
    • May stand alone
    Learn all the fun, new experiences your 1-year-old is beginning to enjoy
  • 15 Months
    What most children do by 18 months:
    • Copies other children while playing, like taking toys out of a container when another child does
    • Shows you an object she likes
    • Claps when excited
    • Hugs stuffed doll or other toy
    • Shows you affection (hugs, cuddles, or kisses you)
    • Tries to say one or two words besides “mama” or “dada,” like “ba” for ball or “da” for dog
    • Looks at a familiar object when you name it
    • Follows directions given with both a gesture and words. For example, he gives you a toy when you hold out your hand and say, “Give me the toy.”
    • Points to ask for something or to get help
    • Tries to use things the right way, like a phone, cup, or book
    • Stacks at least two small objects, like blocks
    • Takes a few steps on his own
    • Uses fingers to feed herself some food
    Learn all the fun, new experiences your 1-year-old is beginning to enjoy
  • 18 Months
    What most children do by 18 months:
    Social and Emotional
    • Likes to hand things to others as play
    • May have temper tantrums
    • May be afraid of strangers
    • Shows affection to familiar people
    • Plays simple pretend, such as feeding a doll
    • May cling to caregivers in new situations
    • Points to show others something interesting
    • Explores alone but with parent close by
    • Says several single words
    • Says and shakes head “no”
    • Points to show someone what he wants
    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Knows what ordinary things are for; for example, telephone, brush, spoon
    • Points to get the attention of others
    • Shows interest in a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed
    • Points to one body part
    • Scribbles on his own
    • Can follow 1-step verbal commands without any gestures; for example, sits when you say “sit down”
    Movement/Physical Development
    • Walks alone
    • May walk up steps and run
    • Pulls toys while walking
    • Can help undress herself
    • Drinks from a cup
    • Eats with a spoon
    Learn all the fun, new experiences your 1-year-old is beginning to enjoy
  • 2 Years
    What most children do by 2 years:
    Social and Emotional
    • Copies others, especially adults and older children
    • Gets excited when with other children
    • Shows more and more independence
    • Shows defiant behavior (doing what he has been told not to)
    • Plays mainly beside other children, but is beginning to include other children, such as in chase games
    • Points to things or pictures when they are named
    • Knows names of familiar people and body parts
    • Says sentences with 2 to 4 words
    • Follows simple instructions
    • Repeats words overheard in conversation
    • Points to things in a book
    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers
    • Begins to sort shapes and colors
    • Completes sentences and rhymes in familiar books
    • Plays simple make-believe games
    • Builds towers of 4 or more blocks
    • Might use one hand more than the other
    • Follows two-step instructions such as “Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet.”
    • Names items in a picture book such as a cat, bird, or dog
    Movement/Physical Development
    • Stands on tiptoe
    • Kicks a ball
    • Begins to run
    • Climbs onto and down from furniture without help
    • Walks up and down stairs holding on
    • Throws ball overhand
    • Makes or copies straight lines and circles
    Learn all the ways your 2-year-old is growing every day
  • 3 Years
    What most children do by 3 years:
    Social and Emotional
    • Copies adults and friends
    • Shows affection for friends without prompting
    • Takes turns in games
    • Shows concern for crying friend
    • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
    • Shows a wide range of emotions
    • Separates easily from mom and dad
    • May get upset with major changes in routine
    • Dresses and undresses self
    • Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
    • Can name most familiar things
    • Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under”
    • Says first name, age, and sex
    • Names a friend
    • Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
    • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
    • Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences
    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
    • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
    • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
    • Understands what “two” means
    • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
    • Turns book pages one at a time
    • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
    • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle
    Movement/Physical Development
    • Climbs well
    • Runs easily
    • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
    • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step
    • Eats with a spoon
    Learn the skills your 3-year-old needs to build a strong foundation for learning.
  • 4 Years
    What most children do by 4 years:
    Social and Emotional
    • Enjoys doing new things
    • Plays “Mom” and “Dad”
    • Is more and more creative with make-believe play
    • Would rather play with other children than by himself
    • Cooperates with other children
    • Often can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
    • Talks about what she likes and what she is interested in
    • Knows some basic rules of grammar, such as correctly using “he” and “she”
    • Sings a song or says a poem from memory such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or the “Wheels on the Bus”
    • Tells stories
    • Can say first and last name
    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Names some colors and some numbers
    • Understands the idea of counting
    • Starts to understand time
    • Remembers parts of a story
    • Understands the idea of “same” and “different”
    • Draws a person with 2 to 4 body parts
    • Uses scissors
    • Starts to copy some capital letters
    • Plays board or card games
    • Tells you what he thinks is going to happen next in a book
    Movement/Physical Development
    • Hops and stands on one foot up to 2 seconds
    • Catches a bounced ball most of the time
    • Pours, cuts with supervision, and mashes own food
    How to Know when your child is ready for Kindergarten
  • 5 Years
    What most children do by 5 years:
    Social and Emotional
    • Wants to please friends
    • Wants to be like friends
    • More likely to agree with rules
    • Likes to sing, dance, and act
    • Is aware of gender
    • Can tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
    • Shows more independence (for example, may visit a next-door neighbor by himself [adult supervision is still needed])
    • Is sometimes demanding and sometimes very cooperative
    • Speaks very clearly
    • Tells a simple story using full sentences
    • Uses future tense; for example, “Grandma will be here.”
    • Says name and address
    Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Counts 10 or more things
    • Can draw a person with at least 6 body parts
    • Can print some letters or numbers
    • Copies a triangle and other geometric shapes
    • Knows about things used every day, like money and food
    Movement/Physical Development
    • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
    • Hops; may be able to skip
    • Can do a somersault
    • Uses a fork and spoon and sometimes a table knife
    • Can use the toilet on her own
    • Swings and climbs
    • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step
    • Eats with a spoon
    How to Know when your child is ready for Kindergarten

If you're concerned - act early 

If you have concerns about your child’s development, help is available! Explore the tips below to ensure that you find the right resources for your family. For more information, visit the CDC’s “If You’re Concerned” web page or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

Concerned about development?

How to Talk With the Doctor

A first step toward getting help for your child when you are concerned about his or her development (how your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves) is to talk with your child's doctor.

  • 1. Prepare for your visit.

    • When you make your next well child appointment, tell the doctor's staff you have concerns about your child's development that you want to discuss.
    • Write down your questions, concerns, and some examples; take these to the appointment.
    • Fill out a milestones checklist for your child's age at and take it with you to the doctor.
  • 2. Ask all of your questions during the visit; you know your child best and your concerns are important.

    • Tell the doctor you have concerns at the start of the visit and share the milestones checklist and any questions you might have written down.
    • If the doctor seems to be in a hurry, ask if you should schedule another visit.
    • Ask about your child's most recent developmental screening results. If a screening has not been done, ask for one. For information about developmental screening, go to
    • Take notes to help you remember what the doctor says and what to do next.
  • 3. Make sure you understand what your doctor says and what to do next.

    • Before you leave, make sure all of your questions have been answered.
    • If you do not understand something, ask the doctor to explain it again or in a different way.
    • Review your notes and ask the doctor, nurse or office staff for any information you will need to do what the doctor has told you. For example, "What is the phone number for my local early intervention program?"
    • When you get home, review your notes and call the doctor's office if you have any questions.
    • Take the steps the doctor has told you and remember to follow up with the doctor about how it went.
  • First steps

    For children under three, Indiana’s First Steps System provides support to families with identified early intervention needs. First Steps brings together families with a local network of professionals from education, health and social service agencies. Services are coordinated to give each child the widest possible array of early intervention resources. First Steps is available in every county in Indiana. Learn more today.

  • Local school supports

    If you have concerns about your child after the age of 3, you can talk to your local school system’s early childhood special education services program.

    These programs serve children after their third birthday and are available to every child in Indiana.